Science 3

Limits to Growth                  Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, Dennis Meadows
The Prehistory of the Mind   Steven Mithen
After The Ice                         Steven Mithen
In Search of Memory            Eric R. Kandel
The Weather Makers            Tim Flannery

Limits to Growth, The 30 Year Update   Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, Dennis Meadows

Preface  In 1972 the first version, Limits to Growth, appeared.  It was the first application of Systems Technology to the world situation.  It caused quite a stir.  In 1992, Beyond the Limits, appeared.  It suggests that humans had already overshot the limits of earth’s ability to support humanity.  The current version is an effort to fulfill a final request of Donella Meadows, to provide an update to the source data and their model, and to reiterate their original message, and to announce their plans for a follow-up book in 2012.

C1 Overshoot  verb transitive, to go too far, to go beyond limits accidently--without intention.  Within the context of this book it refers to exceeding the limits of earths carrying capacity.  Causes of overshoot: 1-growth, acceleration, rapid change, 2-some sort of barrier beyond which the system may may not safely go, 3-delay in the feedback response.
    Ecological Footprint: Relationship between humanity’s demands on the planet and the globe’s capacity to provide. (Mathis Wackernagel, 1997)
    Worldview: An internally consistent set of beliefs, attitudes, and values - a paradigm, a fundamental way of looking at reality.  For over 200 years the primary western worldview has been one of unrelenting growth.

C2 The Driving Force: Exponential Growth  The first cause of overshoot is exponential growth.  A discussion of the mathematics, a number of examples of exponential growth taken from foods, population, yeast cells, and industrial growth.  An introduction to the construction of the World3 model.

C3  The Limits  Sources and Sinks - Discussion of sources and sinks. Three rules to help define sustainable limits to material and energy throughput, from Herman Daly: 1- for renewal resources the rate of use can be no greater than the rate of regeneration of its source.  2 - For a nonrenewable resource the rate of use can be no greater than the rate at which a renewable resource can sustainably be substituted for it.  3 - For a pollutant the rate of use can be no greater than the rate at which that pollutant can be recycled, absorbed, or rendered harmless.

Description of renewable resources (food, land, soil, water, forests, species and ecosystem services), nonrenewable resources such as fossil fuels, pollution and waste sinks.  In many cases we have already gone beyond the limits, we are already living on capital, not income.  Environmental deteoraition is sometimes quantified by IPAT, Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology.

C4  World3  The Dynamics of Growth - the structure of the model.  The authors describe the underlying basis of dynamic models and the structure of the World3 model.  They discuss the variables used in the model and how they used in the analysis of the models. Overshoot can either leade to oscillation or to collapse.  Oscillation will result if environment is not too seriously damaged and can recover rapidly.  An example would be overcutting of a forest.  Collapse will result when the environment is seriously damaged and cannot recover quickly.  An example is severe soil erosion or salt poisoning.

Model Scenario 1  Society proceedes in a traditional manner with no major changes.  Action is taken only as a reaction to events.  Growth continues until 2020 when population begins to crash.  Capital investment no longer keeps up with depreciation and obsolensence.  Industrial output, food, life expectancy, services, and human welfare index begin to decline.
Model Scenario 2  Same policies as  in #1, twice as many nonrenewable resources.  Expansion continues for 20 years, the collapse occurs primarily because of pollution.  All other measures continue to rise for longer than in #1 but crash further and faster.  

Symptoms of overshoot: falling resource stocks, rising pollution levels, capital, resources, and labor diverted to to substitute for services formerly provided by nature, resources diverted to exploitation of scarce resources, technologies invented to use lower quality resources, natural pollution cleanup mechanisms begin to fail, rising levels of deferred maintenance, growing demands for resources to be used for military and industry, investment in human resources postponed to pay for security, etc., debt increasing, decreasing health and environmental goals, increasing conflicts, shifting consumption - from what people want to what they need, decreasing respect for government, increasing chaos in natural systems because of less resilience in the environmental system.  The authors present a list points on which their models could be attacked and ways in which the system must be changed to prevent overshoot and collapse.

C5 The Ozone Story  Chlorfluorocarbons are very useful and they were thought to be very beneficial and benign.  Then it was discovered that CFC’s destroyed ozone in the stratosphere.  After a number of years the political system finally worked and the CFC’s are largely removed from use.  It will still take a number of years to solve the problem.

C6 Technology, Markets, and Overshoot  Many people cannot accept the fact that there can be limits to growth, this is a very strong semi-religious belief.  The authors describe some of the mechanisms by which the current system solves its problems.

Model Scenario 3  Same resource base as in #2, increasingly effective pollution control which increases by 4% per year.  Results show most positive measures maintain their improvements for at least another 20 years until at least 2040.  Resources and food continue to decline.  Industrial output, population and other measures drop rapidly following 2050 with major crashes in the years before 2100.  It could be labeled a “food crisis”.

Model Scenario 4  Add to the above more accessable nonrenewable resources, pollution control technology, and land yield enhancement.  Almost all measures continue to rise until 2040-2070 at which point a total collapse occurs.

Model Scenario 5  Add to the above more accessible nonrenewable resources, pollution control technology, land yield enhancement, and land erosion protection.  The result is a slight postponement of the collapse until closer to 2100.

Model Scenario 6  Add to the above more accessible nonrenewable resources, pollution control technology, land yield enhancement, land erosion protection, and resource efficiency technology.  The results match the slight postponments in #5 but the collapse does not occur.  There are some negative reductions around 2050 but the remedial efforts have been sufficient to prevent the collapse and reverse some of the negative effects.

At this point they step back and look at their models.  The models look at the whold world and do not reflect any internal differences.  Rich and poor areas are lumped together, there is no military aspect, no volcanos, hurricanes, or earthquakes.  The models are not designed to predict any specific events.  With these restrictions, why bother?  Some things can be learned even from restricted models.  If we find a way to eliminate or raise one limit, another will show up fairly soon.  There are layers of limits.  A second lesson is that if we can avoid a particular limit using economic or technical adaptations, the next set of limits will arise in groups of two or more.  What we are really loosing is our ability to cope.  They believe that time is the most important limit.  Humanity seems to posssess almost unlimited problem-solving abilities.  Unfortunately exponential growth expands so rapidly in its final stages that it overwhelms our solutions because there isn’t enough time to cope.

Goals, costs, and delays:  If our implicit goals are to maximize short term benefits and ignore the long term then we never develop sustainable usage.  Costs of resources, energy, labor, etc tend to rise exponentially as limits are neared.  Delays which reduce our knowledge of impending limits and in tooling up to address these limits decrease our ability to cope with the problems we have created.  They finish the chapter by citing examples from the energy (oil) industry and ocean fishing.

C7  Transitions to a Sustainable System  Many of our solutions to problems are very effective for a while, taller smokestacks, more fertilizers, subsidize failing industries, but they hide the underlying reality and just postpone the real problem.  What we need to do is to change the structure.  Not in the political-revolutionary sense of throwing people out of office, etc., but in the system sense of changing the feedback loops and information structure of the society.  The previous models did not change the underlying structure, they simply changed the numeric values.  The following model change elements of the structure of the original model.

Model Scenario 7  Using #1, after 2002 couples restrict their family size to 2 children and they have access to effective birth control technologies.  The results are that population, industrial output, food, consumer goods, life expectancy, and human welfare index continue to rise for longer but rising polltion and lack of resources cause a decrease, much as in #2.

Model Scenario 8  Same family size as in #7 and set a limit of industrial production about 10% higher than the current levels in 2000.  It also increases the reliability of equipment (depreciation) so that equipment lasts longer.  The results are a lengthing of the time before collapse for more than 30 years before food production losses and pollution cause a downturn - but not a collapse.

Model Scenario 9  Same as #8 but adds pollution, resource, and agricultural technologies starting in 2002.  The results are that this model shows a sustainable future.  A population of 8 billion people can live comfortably and the ecological footprint of humans decreases.  There are short term fluctuations but humans and the environment are in equilibrium.

Model Scenario 10  Same as #9 but begins the policies in 1982 instead of 2002.  The results show similar results to #9 but they occur earlier, the population is lower, less pollution, more nonrenewable resources, and slightly higher welfare.  We could have done it - but we didn’t and it will now cost more.

They discuss several models that they did not report on.  If we wait too long or if we set our consumption goals too high we cannot achieve sustainability.  What are some of the steps that can be taken to achieve a sustainable society?

    1. Extend the planning horizon from 1 election cycle to decades.
    2. Improve the signals, add social and environmental measures and improve economic indicators.
    3. Speed up response times, educate for flexibility and creativity.
    4. Minimize the use of nonrenewable resources.
    5. Prevent the erosion of renewable resources.
    6. Use all resources with maximum efficiency.
    7. Slow and eventually stop exponential growth of population and physical capital.
    8. Eliminate poverty, guarantee that all have sufficient resources.
    9. Eliminate unemployment, all need to work and not be abandoned.
    10. You can’t solve all problems with consumption, people have nonmaterial needs.

C8  Tools for the Transition to Sustainability  How will we get there?  Humanities first great revolution was the introduction of agriculture about 10,000 years ago.  About 1750 the Industrial Revolution began.  Both had many benefits and problems. They both increased the carrying capacity of the earth.  Our next revolution must be sustainability.  What are some of the tools for this transition:
Visioning - imagine generally and then with increasing specificity what you really want.  Be wide ranging but be realistic, you need to be disciplined by skepticism.  Vision is not enough, vision without action is useless.  We need an agreed upon vision to move forward.  They give a number of examples.

Networking - we need to interact with each other, face to face, electronically, in groups, over the Web, etc.  We need information, how to solve problems, what problems others have, etc.

Truth-Telling - we need intelligent reports and intelligent critics to watch out for distortions and lies.  They present a list of distortions and counters to these distortions.

Learning - We need to continue learning throughout our life and not discover a single TRUTH and hold onto it without question.  We must be able to make mistakes and learn from them.  We must allow our leaders to do the same.

Loving - We must become comfortable in speaking of love and in more than the most trivial and trivial sense of the word.  As Abraham Maslow asked, “How good a society does human nature permit?”, “How good a human nature does society permit?”  We must learn to be able to speak of our fellow men in terms other than of strictly economic terms.

Mental Models - what are our options for the future, there are several mental models to choose from. One mental model holds that the world for all practical purposes has no limits, call it blind optimism.  That model encourages us to continue as we have, it leads to collapse.  Another mental model says that the limits are real and close and that there is not enough time and people cannot change.  Call it blind pessimism.  That model is self-fulfilling and if we choose it, it will be proven right - it leads to collapse.  A third mental model says that the limits are real and close but we can, if we work hard, create a sustainable human population on earth.  Call it hopeful realism.  If it is true we may be able to prevent collapse and have a sustainable future.

Extensions  There are appendices, endnotes, lists of tables and figures, and an index.  All the little details that one would expect in an intellectually honest book.

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The Prehistory of the Mind   Steven Mithen

C1  An overview of the book  Mithen makes one statement with which I disagree.  He states, “…the mind sprang into existence fully formed … it is a product of divine creation.  They are wrong …”.  It is not that they are wrong, it is that such ideas are not useful in understanding the mind.  A useful theory will explain many of the known facts and will suggest further questions and specific hypothesizing.  It is clear that there is no simple linear relationship between brain size, intelligence, and behavior.

C2  He breaks his discussion into 4 acts and several; scenes, like a Shakespearean drama.
Act 1  6 – 4.5mya  long, little action we watch in virtual darkness
Act 2  4.5 – 1.8mya  2 scenes, lit with a flickering candle
    Scene 1-Australopithecus ramidus and A. aramersis, then Lucy, Afarensis
    Scene 2-2.5mya, A. africanus, 2 mya Homo habilis with few tools.
Act 3  1.8mya – 100kya  very little action, poor lighting
    Scene 1-H. erectus, Ice ages start, more tools (hand axes), H. heidelbergensis
    Scene 2-200kya, more sophisticated tools, H. neanderthalensis
Act 4  100kya – present day  Real action, H. sapiens
    Scene 1 100kya – 60kya H. sapiens sapiens (us) same tools, bury dead
    Scene 2 60 – 10kya – boat building, blade tools, bone and ivory tools, painting, needles, cave art, weather fluctuations
    Scene 3 10kya – present  agriculture, cities, writing, global warming

C3  Mithen discusses numerous theories of mental development.

C4  He proposes a model of mental development
    Phase 1  a single ‘nave’ of generalized intelligence.
    Phase 2  the phase 1 nave plus 4 isolated ‘chapels’ of specific intelligence with limited intraconnections. These ‘chapels’ are technical, linguistic, social and natural history intelligences.
    Phase 3  the intraconnections between the 4 ‘chapels’ of specific intelligence become permeable.

C5  Compare intelligences with the (man-chimp) missing link – using present day chimps as a surrogate.
Technical IQ = tool making/using.  Chimps make & use tools, their techniques are very elementary.  They only manipulate and transform natural objects in minor ways.
Natural History IQ – chimps have good spatial memory for food, however they don’t seem to use cues to find food, say tracks or previous flowers.
Social IQ – Chimps seem to have rather advanced social IQ’s.
Linguistic IQ – There is a small amount of evidence for elementary linguistic IQ.
There seems to be very little communication between the types of IQ in Chimps.  Chimps seem to have fairly good general IQ, better than other primates excluding man.

C6  Homo habilis  4.5 – 1.8mya  Very little evidence prior to 2 mya.
    Technical – Use of tools to make tools, knowledge of the structure of rocks
    Natural History – More meat eating, ability to predict animal locations.
    Social – Estimated group size is increasing
    Language – Size of the brain areas involved in language seems to be expanding.
    General – May be increasing but no evidence for increased internal communication.

C7  H. erectus 1.8 mya – 100kya, H. heidelbergensis c. 500kya & H. neanderthalis c. 150kya – try to characterize a “generic” human of this era.
    Technical – Much higher level of skill in tool manufacture but they had little creativity in materials, methods, component count, and variability.
    Natural History – After 1.8mya Homo was able to move from Africa to SE Asia then to W Asia by 1mya and Europe by 800kya – 500kya.  He was gaining the ability to live in many new environments.  He was still incapable of living in very dry or very cold environments.  Homo lived in a very challenging environment.  Very sophisticated tools were made but they were of only a few generalized types, “one size fits all”.  Tools were seemingly only made of stone and they were very consistent across many 100k years and all areas.  Much more so than contemporary apes and monkeys.  They also seemed only to exploit big game, there is no evidence of small animal usage.  Modern hunting groups like the Inuit have much more complex and specialized tools.
    Mithen hypothesizes that both H. erectus (1.6mya) and Neanderthal had roughly equal abilities in social, technical, and Natural History IQ but that language was associated with social IQ.  Erectus had much less language IQ than neanderthal.

C8  How does a neanderthal think?  Perhaps like a mature adult undergoing a petit mal seizure.

C9  100kya – 40kya – early H. sapiens – H. sapiens sapiens.  Middle / Upper Paleolithic transition.  The hints of anthropomorphic behavior, merging of natural history IQ and social IQ.  The ability to “think like an animal”.  Hunting drives and specializing in group slaughter of many members of a single species instead of killing individual animals as they are found.  New tools, integration of natural history IQ and technical IQ.  The rise of art and religion.  Perhaps by 100kya early humans had merged language, social, & natural history IQ leaving out only technical.  Tools seemed to be the same as neanderthal.  Advanced tools, art, body ornaments, etc. seem to have fitfully arisen between 100kya and 30kya.  Genetic evidence suggests that modern H. sap sap arose from an isolated population of 50 individuals isolated for 70 years or 500 individuals isolated for 500 years.

C10  Language was evolved as a subset of social IQ and it may have begun as much as 250kya.  Probably very early ‘snippets’ of language about natural history & technology would have entered language (and many probably lost) in increasing amounts until around 100kya.  Mithen thinks that between 150kya and 50kya social language evolved into general purpose language.  Part of this process was by anthropomorthism.  As language involves the natural history & technology sphere, all areas of human activity became available for conscious thought.  Full consciousness occurred for the first time.  Another part of this process was the additional length of time spent by females nursing and raising children.  The brain of a chimp grows only about 25% more after birth, the brain of a modern human grows more than 4 times its birth size.  Neanderhal had a brain slightly larger than a modern human.  A neanderthal brain of a 3-4 year old was almost adult size and a 2 year old neanderthal skull had a brain size of a 6 year old modern human.  This extended childhood leaves a much greater time for cognitive development before maturity.

C11  Approximately 65mya a group of archaic primates arose.  Some of the members were Purgatorius and Plesiadapis, mouse to squirrel sized fruit and leaf eaters.  Mentally they seem to be similar to modern cats and rats who can learn to solve simple problems but cannot generalize to make the solving of similar problems easier in the future.  They had a good learning ability but no way of linking expertise in separate areas.  The first modern primates evolved 56mya, Notharctus is an example.  They show the first evidence of primate brain enlargement.  Rodents proliferated about 50mya and outcompeted the earlier forms.  Our ancestors had only one advantage, a bigger brain.

A more powerful general IQ and the evolution of a social IQ were the “edge” they needed to compete with rodents.  The fossil record now switches from the US to Africa with Aegyptopithecus at 35mya and then Proconsul at 23-15mya.  General and social IQ continue to enlarge.  By around 6mya general and especially social IQ had probably “maxed out”.  At 3.5mya the climate in E Africa began to dry out, bipedalism became more important as forests turned into more open savanna.  Technical & natural history IQ became essential to cope with changing conditions.  Afarensis (Lucy) is an example.  Hunting and scavenging were becoming essential to support a high energy consuming brain.

By 1.8-1.4mya H. erectus is showing clear evidence of technical & natural history IQ with sophisticated handaxes and usage of new environments.  Brain size remained relatively constant between 1.8mya and 500kya.  During this time the vocal apparatus reached almost modern capabilities.  Between 500kya and 200kya brain size increased dramatically to modern size.  Full language ability arose, probably by 150kya with the neanderthal.  He probably had the full capability for technical & natural history IQ.
With modern humans, 100kya to present, the main improvement would seem to be the communications between and integration of these abilities.

Three critical attributes of science:
1 – make and test hypotheses – chimps and early humans do this
2 – make and use tools – neanderthal excelled at this
3 – use of analogy and metaphor – became very important with the integration of specialized intellegences.

Epilogue  For modern humans it “all came together” about 10kya at the end of the last Ice Age.  It was a period of rapid and repeated climate changes and cultures throughout the world invented farming and animal husbandry.  The knowledge of the edible plants and compliant animals had existed for at least 20k years.  Why did it take so long?  Comment:  With a settled and farming life style, health went down, this must have been observed by those living at the time.

Two theories
1-Around 10kya human populations got so high that more dependable food sources needed to be developed.  –NO!-  There were many known methods of controlling population size.  Mobility alone reduces reproductive potential.
2-Climate change – as much as 7 degrees C (13 degrees F) in a few decades.  Modern humans were mentally prepared to make this change.

Four aspects of the mental changes which prepared humans for these changes.
1-Ability to make tools which could be used for harvesting & processing plants.  This involves the integration of technical & natural history IQ.
2-Ability to use animals and plants as a medium of acquiring social prestige and power.  Integration of social & natural history IQ.  This is basic Darwinism, individuals who control food production gain in prestige & power, same as sexual display selection, eg. peacock tails.
3-Ability to develop “social relationships” with plants & animals.  Again social & natural history IQ.
4-Ability to manipulate plants and animals, integration of technical and natural history IQ.

These abilities were maturing at least 40kya but it wasn’t until after the last Ice Age that they were fully available and in an environmental crisis that it all came together and agriculture, organized religion, organized art, and science were the end result.

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After The Ice  A Global Human History, 20,000 to 5,000 BC   Steven Mithen

Mithen tells the history of humans on earth between the dates of the Last Glacial Maximum, the furthest southern expansion of the glaciers of the most recent Ice Age - roughthly 20,000 BC until 5,000 BC.  This is approximately when serious agriculture changed human culture enough to have a major force, when writing is just starting, and when the first cities were being built.  Mithen does this by inventing a young man of our time who has the miraculous ability to travel through time and space and participate in the cultures he visits but not effect them.  He is named John Lubbock, after the Victorian, John Lubbock, a contemporary, friend, and neighbor of Charles Darwin, who published in 1865 a book entitled Prehistoric Times.

Mithen sends the contemporary John Lubbock through 6 continents of the world and 52 different areas, many having several dates.  At each site, the contemporary John Lubbock observes, and sometimes works with, the existing people.  He discusses (internally) the relevant archaeological excavations of the site, and reads from the Victorian John Lubbock’s book.  I found the book quite informative and fun to read.  It is based on solid archeological data and attempts to flesh it out with educated guesses and extrapolations from reasonably contemporary and historical cultures inhabiting similar environments with similar tools.

Mithen had problems with the actions of the contemporary John Lubbock character in terms of his believability.  How can one sleep on beds, practice tool knapping, and help carry food back from a kill or collection site and not be noticed?  It think it could have been handled better using a current science fiction theme.  Perhaps hypothesizing the invention of a “viewer” that could travel in past time and space under the control of an operator.  The viewing”port” would be very small and would have to be viewed from within a dark room.  It would need no sound capabilities - we couldn’t understand the languages without a great deal of study - although yells of alarm and the tone of voice would be useful.  I still enjoyed the book immensely.

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In Search of Memory  The Emergence of a New Science of Mind   Eric R. Kandel

C1  Personal Memory and the Biology of Memory Storage  One of Kandel's most vivid memories is of receiving a shiny, remote-controlled blue car on his 9th birthday.  Then two days later Nazi policemen came into their apartment and forced them to move to the apartment of an older couple for several days.  Then after several more days his father returned from jail where he had been kept with other Jewish men.  Then a year later his family was allowed to emigrate to the US so they did not go to the death camps.  This was a defining event in his life, how was this memory come to be stored in his brain?  This was to become his life's work.

C2  A Childhood in Vienna  In 1930, when Kandel was born, Vienna was one of the most important cultural centers of the world.  He grew up just a few blocks from where Freud lived.  The chapter describes his life before the Germans came and then his life until he was able to leave for America.

C3  An American Education
 Kandel attended a Jewish grade school, a public high school, and then Harvard.  He met a Radcliffe student, Anna Kris whose parents were prominent psychoanalysts and colleagues of Freud.  He decided to go to medical school and then become a psychoanalyst.  While in medical school his romance with Anna cooled and he met another young woman, Denise, who as a young Jewish girl had spent the war hiding in a Catholic convent in France.  They were married shortly after he graduated from medical school.  The chapter includes a brief description of the anatomy of the nervous system and the psychological knowledge of that time.

C4  One Cell at a Time  Shortly before receiving his MD, Kandel spent a 6-month elective with Harry Grundfest at Columbia.  Kandel wanted to localize the Id, Ego, and Superego in the brain.  Grundfest quietly suggested that current brain research was not that advanced and that Kandel should look at the brain one cell at a time.  He spends the rest of the chapter discussing nerve cell anatomy, physiology, and signaling.

C5  The Nerve Cell Speaks
 The discovery of how nerve cells work.  At rest nerve cells are about 70 mv positive from inside to outside.  When they fire, Na+ ions travel in, the result is 40 mv-.  Then K+ ions travel out to restore the original.

C6  Conversations Between Nerve Cells  Ever since the first nerve cell research there had been a controversy between those who felt that the nerve cell communications were electrical or chemical in nature.  It was then discovered that acetylcholine carried signals from nerves to muscle cells.  In the brain the transmitter seems to be glutamate.  It was later discovered that in some cases there is an electrical transmission between nerve cells.  There are small synaptic vesicles in nerve cells that contain approximately 5,000 molecules of acetylcholine.  These travel to the surface of a nerve cell, break, and release the neurotransmitter to stimulate the muscle cell.

C7  Simple and Complex Neuronal Systems
 Descriptions of who he met and what he did in the last few months of med school and the last 6 weeks of his internship.  He only devoted 1 sentence to his internship.

C8  Different Memories, Different Brain Regions
 Following his year as an intern he took a research position at NIMH.  Most of the chapter is devoted to describing the efforts to localize brain function.

C9  Searching for an Ideal System to Study Memory
 At the NIMH, Kandel began working with the cat hippocampus which was known to be involved in storing memories.  He and a colleague were able to do some significant work but it became clear that the cat was to complex to learn the details that he was looking for.  After considerable study he settled on the marine worm Aplysia.  Aplysia has only about 20,000 nerve cells, most in 9 separate clusters (ganglia) and many of them are very large and easily recognizable.

C10  Neural Analogs of Learning  He starts with a visit to Vienna and attitudes towards it.  Next a brief discussion of his 2-year residency at Harvard Medical School.  He was not impressed.  He finishes by describing his proposal for post-doc in Paris.  He wanted to isolate the specific nerves and see if he could replicate the classical condition paradigm of sensitization, habituation, and stimulus-response pairing with only nerve cells.

C11  Strengthening Synaptic Connections
 Kandel describes his work in Paris where he was able to demonstrate all three types of implicit learning (Habituation, Sensitization, and Classical Conditioning) using nerve cells removed from Aplysia.  He also discusses family matters, the rigid hierarchical nature of French society and academia and the prevalent anti-Semitism of many French.

C12  A Center for Neurobiology and Behavior  When he returned from Paris he was an instructor at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center (Harvard).  After 2 years of supervising psychotherapy residents (he called it the blind leading the blind) he moved to New York University Medical School leading a group in the Dept. of Physiology focused on the neurobiology of behavior.  He discusses many of his colleagues.

C13  Even a Simple Behavior can be Modified by Learning
 At NYU he recruited a team, determined a behavior to investigate, the gill-withdrawal reflex, demonstrated that it can be modified with classical conditioning, and was able to map out the electrical circuits of the controlling neural architecture.

C14  Synapses Change with Experience  Kandel begins to look for the chemical and physical means by which this circuitry operates.

C15  The Biological Basis of Individuality  Kandel discovers that habituation reduces the number of connections between sensory and motor neurons and that sensitization increases the number of connections.  The anatomy of nerve cells changes.  This was later confirmed in tests on brain areas used in the control of monkey fingers.

C16  Molecules and Short-Term Memory  It was determined that the neural circuit that directly controls the gill-withdrawal reflex is genetic and the neurotransmitter is glutamate.  There are additional circuits that are formed with learning that regulate the main reflex and their transmitter is serotonin.  He goes on to discuss the biochemistry involved in short-term memory, serotonin, Cyclic AMP, and the catalytic subunit of protein kinase A.

C17  Long-Term Memory  A brief review of DNA research and molecular biology.

C18  Memory Genes  He moved from NYU to Columbia University.  Major advances were made in the ability to raise Aplysia and they were soon able to grow individual nerve cells in the lab which made research in long term memory easier.  Kandel discovered that long term memory requires the synthesis of new protein.  Memory is also strengthened by the growth of new axon terminals.

C19  A Dialogue Between Genes and Synapses  A single dose of serotonin will strengthen the synapse, multiple (5) doses will cause a series of biochem steps to occur which turns on a facilitator gene which enables growth of new synapses.  The first research was done using only serotonin releasing interneurons but it was soon discovered that injected serotonin would suffice.  It was then discovered that only those synapses stimulated would grow additional synapses, other synapses on the same nerve cell were not effected at all.

C20  A Return to Complex Memory
 A brief discussion of complex memories and hippocampus research.

C21  Synapses also hold our Fondest Memories  Discussion of how Kandel moved into research with genetically altered mice.  Even though the data is not quite so clear, they found that the same processes involved in Aplysia nerve function are involved in mouse behavior, mice do have additional additional gene regulators not found in Aplysia.

C22  The Brain's Picture of the External World  Discussion of cognitive psychology and of the brain research that is associated with this study.

C23  Attention Must be Paid!  Generally animals must pay attention to something to have it stored into long term memory.  A mouse will learn its way around an area (spatial memory) just by wandering but it will only retain this information for a short while but if it was learning a task or searching for food the memory would be retained much longer.  Also, activating dopamine receptors in the hippocampus stabilized the memory of a mouse that was not paying attention.

C24  A Little Red Pill  Brief description of the biotechnology-academic industry.  In 1987 Kandel joined a biotech firm, it was later disbanded and he formed another firm in 1996.  Memory Technologies produces drugs for the prevention of memory loss in age related memory loss and for early stage Alzheimer's.  These drugs came out of research with memory loss in mice.  He ends with a discussion of the ethical issues involved in scientific research and implementation.

C25  Mice, Men, and Mental Illness  Some forms of mental illness (depression, post-traumatic stress, schizophrenia) are sometimes associated with memory loss.  A brief review of thinking about mental illness.  How he created learned fear in mice and the neural pathways of fear and safety in the mouse.  Some of the brain regions involved are the thalamus, auditory cortex, amygdala, and dorsal striatum.

C26  A New Way to Treat Mental Illness  Brief history of the observations and treatments of schizophrenia and depression.  There are a number of questions regarding the action of psychotropic drugs, one possible explanation is that a small group of nerve stem cells in the dentate gyrus (a part of the hippocampus) creates new nerve cells which, when antidepressants are administered, produces cells which are resistant to depression.  Progress is being rapidly made in the production of anti-psychotic drugs.

C27  Biology and the Renaissance of Psychoanalytic Thought  A brief summary of the intellectual history of psychoanalysis and psychiatry.  His thoughts on how the discipline can be improved by relying more on biological approaches.

C28  Consciousness  The recent scientific discussions of consciousness, thoughts recent philosophers and of Francis Crick.  Studies of brain imaging and brain sensing while performing observations and simple movements.

C29  Rediscovering Vienna via Stockholm  October 9, 2000 - Kandel received the call informing that he had won the Nobel Prize.  His day, a brief history of the Prize, the activities surrounding the award ceremony.  He described the events and the emotional upheaval after being asked to organize a conference at the behest of the President of Austria.  He found many supportive but there were a number who still repeated the stories of the Nazi anti-Semitism.

C30  Learning from Memory:  Prospects  He is continually amazed at how he got to where he is today.  A large part of this is the egalitarian social structure of American science.  A retrospective of his life, career, and science.  

Kandel ends with a Glossary, Notes and Sources, and an Index.  A somewhat confusing book.  He intersperses he personal life, career, the scientific background, and his researches; almost a stream-of-consciousness book.  He could have broken all of these separate parts out into distinct sections but the book flows very nicely as he has written it.  It's just that when you go back to check on a point it gets a little confusing for a moment.  I really enjoyed the book.

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The Weather Makers - How Man is Changing the Climate and What it Means for Life on Earth     Tim Flannery


    In 1981 the author climbed the highest mountain in New Guinea.  He noticed that the forest was extending upwards into the previously colder grasslands on top.  He had other priorities and he forgot about the expanding forests.  For a long time he maintained this attitude, it's somebody else's problem, maybe there will be a breakthrough, my work is important, I can't be jumping on every new fact.  By 2004 he began to worry, he had tried to find faults with other commentators to no avail.  Finally he could not wait any longer, he had to work on the problem.  He had to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

C1  Gaia
 Gaia is not a living, thinking, feeling (or supernatural) being.  Gaia is an interrelated system of physical relationships, chemical reactions, and biological organisms interacting via a number of positive and negative feedback reactions.  Over the past 4 billion years these reactions have produced a remarkably consistent environment that has enabled life to thrive on this planet.  Over the last 100 +/- years we are starting to learn how it works but we have much more to learn and there are many unanswered questions.

C2  The Great Aerial Ocean  Terms: Greenhouse gasses, global warming, climate change, the Keeling Curve - CO2 in the atmosphere since 1958.

C3  The Gaseous Greenhouse  CO2 and water vapor act together in a positive feedback loop.  After CO2 and H2O, the next most important greenhouse gases are methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (NO).  HFC's and CFC's are rare, entirely man made, and 10,000 times as effective as CO2 but their effectiveness is reduced as oceans heat up and become more acid, both of these are happening at present.

C4  The Sages and the Onion Skin  For more than 100 years some people have been reading the weather and have come to the conclusion that we are seriously damaging it.  On of the first was Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discoverer with Darwin of Evolution.  In 1903 he published a book on the fragile relationship between life on earth and the environment.  There have been many others since then.

C5  Time's Gateways  Geological eras, periods, and epochs were all named because of biological events, changes in the types and amounts of fossils of existing organisms.  Translation:  extinction and the evolution of new species following the events.  The most recent major event, the K-T asteroid 65 mya.  This seems to have been followed by an immediate rise of the CO2 level.

Then 10 million years later there was another very rapid rise in the CO2 level from 500 ppm to 2,000 ppm.  This seems to have been caused by massive volcanism under the North Sea which ignited clathrates, methane containing ice which forms in deep oceans.  This also changed the pH of the oceans, also inciting massive die offs of ocean species.  It took approximately 20,000 years to absorb the excess CO2.

C6  Born in the Deep Freeze  Humans split from Chimps about 6 mya, the last series of Ice Ages began about 2.4 mya, and modern humans arrived about 150 kya.  About 100 kya a small group of about 2,000 fertile adults started spreading across the earth.  We are a very young species.  A discussion of tree ring and ice core dating and what information they contain.  The oldest record so far is from about 740 kya.   As we move forward in time from then the data becomes more complete.  Recent analysis showed that approximately 19 kya sea levels rose 30 to 45 feet in perhaps just over 100 years.  This was from the collapse of a Northern Hemisphere ice sheet.  One of the effects of this was to stop the Gulf Stream.  This has happened several times between 20 kya and 8 kya.  12,700 years ago another glacial lake broke stopping the Gulf Stream causing the younger Dryas, a cold spell that lasted for 1,000 years and plunged Europe into an Ice Age.  A smaller cooling event 8,200 years ago caused temperatures over Greenland to drop 9° F for 200 years.  Since then we have been much warmer and it has been warm enough to grow crops.

C7  Making the Long Summer  Normal atmospheric processes should have produced reasonable temperatures for about 3,000 years followed by rapid cooling.  Thus a long cooling period should have started approximately 5,000 years ago.  Instead, two factors  have been found that have reversed this trend.  One is additional methane that is produced by swamps, rice paddies, and other wet agriculture which began 8,000 years ago and CO2 levels began to rise as farmers cut and burned forests.  CO2 production was much lower than our current level but our ancestors have been doing it for 8,000 years.

C8  Digging up the Dead  A brief history of our conversion from burning wood, to coal, and then to oil and natural gas.

C9  The Unraveling World
 "Global warming (and probably cooling) changes climate in jerks ... from one stable state to another."  Near one tropical Pacific island for many years the surface temperature of the ocean commonly dipped below 66° F but starting in 1976 it has rarely dipped below 77° F.  This is the region where El Niños are born.  For hundreds of years people have been making natural history observations.  Two people collected thousands of these observations and they compared their dates and geographic locations.  Up to 1950 there is very little evidence of any trend but since then there has been a poleward shift in species distribution of about 4 miles per decade, a retreat up mountains of 20 feet per decade, and an advance of spring activity of 2.3 days per decade.  There are many specific examples from species all around the world.  Even more worrying is that different species react differently and this is causing problems with predator/prey relationships and conflicts over limited habitats.

C10  Peril it the Poles  At the end of 2004 a new phenomenon occurred.  Antarctic hair grass started growing in large meadows.  Previously it had only grown in sparse clumps in protected locations.  Ice had been replaced by grass.  The amount of krill in Antarctic waters has been decreasing since 1976.  Similar problems are effecting Arctic lemmings, caribou, polar bear, and harp seals.

C11  2050: The Great Stumpy Reef?  Coral reefs around the world are dying because of warming waters and pollution.

C12  A Warning from the Golden Toad  The Golden Toad of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in Costa Rica was discovered and named in 1966.  The El Niño of 1987 dried up all of their breeding ponds. A single male was spotted in 1988 and 1989 and none have been seen since.  Many other amphibians have similarly gone missing and presumed extinct.  10 years later a study was published that suggests a solution.  Cloud forests depend on mist from the bottoms of clouds.  Beginning in 1976 there were fewer days each summer when the bottoms of the clouds reached the tops of the mountains.  Finally in 1987 there were few enough days that many species could no longer survive without this extra moisture.  In 1973 a frog was discovered that swallows its eggs, lets the tadpoles develop in her stomach, and then regurgitates the baby frog.  Doctors looking for cures to stomach ailments were very excited.  Unfortunately in 1979 this frog species and at least one other species disappeared from the mountain rain forests of eastern Australia.  Two more species gone before they could be studied in depth.  5 years later another species of the same genus was discovered but it disappeared before it could be studied.  Amphibians all over the world are suffering because of the effects of global warming.

C13  Liquid Gold:  Changes in Rainfall The Sahel region of Africa has been drying since the 1960's.  For many years this has been blamed on overgrazing and population growth, these are true.  However the most important reason is that the Indian Ocean is getting warmer and this reduces the Sahel monsoon.  The next most important reason is "global dimming".  Remember the old "nuclear winter" scenario?  All of those A and H bombs would create huge fires and the ash and soot in the air would reflect the suns heat back into space.  The emissions from coal, gas, oil, and wind blown dust are doing this, just not as much as the earlier theorists thought.  With better measurements and global models we can now understand that global dimming is cooling the oceans around Europe which is further weakening the Sahel monsoon.  The Sahel, Australia, and the American West are all becoming warmer and dryer.  

C14  An Energetic Onion Skin  During the last 10 years there have been more severe storms than at any other times in recorded history.  In the 1960's approximately 7 million were affected by floods annually. Currently the figure stands at 150 million.  The weather patterns are shifting around the world.  Some regions seem to be relatively unaffected, India is showing almost no change beyond what normal variability would suggest.

C15  Playing at Canute  Sea level is not fixed.  15 kya sea level was 300 ft lower than today and North America was covered with more ice than Antarctica has today.  Sea levels are rising for 2 reasons, as water is heated it expands and this expansion is expected to raise sea levels between 1 and 3 feet within 100 years.  The second reason is melting of glaciers.  At current rates this could cause an additional 1 to 3 feet of rise within the next 100 years.  Some predictions call for 10 to 20 foot rise by 2100.  If all of the glaciers in the world were to melt the sea levels would rise approximately 220 ft.

C16  Model Worlds
 The first weather forecasts were made by the British Meteorological Service under the leadership of Captain Robert Fitzroy (of Darwin and the Beagle fame).  The first models of global weather were begun about 50 years ago and they are becoming more and more accurate.  

C17  The Commitment and Approaching Extreme Danger  CO2 exists in the atmosphere for a long time.  If we were to cease all CO2 production immediately the earth would continue warming until 2050 and then slowly begin to cool.  At whatever date we drastically reduce our CO2 production we are committed to an additional 50 years of warming and all of the additional problems that this causes.

C18  Leveling the Mountains  For every 100 yards you climb a mountain, the temperature drops about 1°F.  In an effort to survive global warming many species are climbing mountains.  However in many places there is no more mountain to climb.  The higher up a species lives the less time they have and it is fairly easy to predict that they will become extinct and roughly when.  It isn't just a few creepy-crawlys, alpine habitats contain more than 10,000 plant species and many animal species.  Currently mountain habitats are moving upwards about 20 feet per decade.  There are some species that thrive in warmer weather.  For example the Anopheles mosquito that carries malaria thrives very well as temperatures rise.

C19  How can they Keep on Moving?  14kya the types of forest currently surrounding Montreal could only be found in northern Florida.  What will happen to current species when the earth warms?  Those "southern" conifers had 14,000 years to become "northern" conifers.  They could slowly move northward.  Many (most?) of our current habitats cannot move as fast as they will need and will probably die.  Another problem are the artificial barriers that humans have created (major transportation corridors, cities, farming areas) which limit species migration.

C20  Boiling the Abyss  If you bring up a fish from deep in the ocean it will die.  The old explanation was the change it pressure.  Yes, in some cases but in most cases it is the change in temperature.  The oceans vary greatly in temperature.  The top 300 feet varies directly with distance from the poles or equator.  Near the poles the temperature can be below freezing and near the equator the temperature can be as high as 86°F.  Between 300 ft and 1/2 mile the temperatures vary depending on depth, the lower the colder.  Below 1/2 mile the temperatures are relatively constant, between 23° F and 39° F.  This water is mainly from the Antarctic.  If CO2 is added to this water it increases the acidity and carbonates, which are used by many marine creatures for shells, becomes unavailable.  They could not form new shells and the carbonates in the old shells would leach out.

C21  The Pack of Jokers  Climates are usually fairly stable until they reach a breaking point and then they change dramatically.  Three major "tipping points" have been identified for out current climate.  They are 1-a slowing or collapse of the Gulf Stream, 2-the death of the Amazon Rain forest, and 3-the release of gas hydrates from the sea floor.  All three have occurred in computer models of global circulation and there is substantial evidence that they have occurred in earths history.  
  1. Collapse of the Gulf Stream  In 2003 the Pentagon commissioned a study on the results of a Gulf Stream collapse.  They came up with all sorts of results for this scenario, most centering around border security and internal disorder.  They made recommendations for prevention and response to problems but they never mention the real problem, CO2 produced by fuel usage.  See
  2. Collapse of the Amazon Rain Forests  There are 2 linked problems here.  As temperature goes up, decomposition becomes more rapid releasing more CO2 and as rain falls in the forest it is taken up by vegetation and re-released into the atmosphere.  As CO2 levels increase and temperatures rise, leaf stomata close reducing the transpiration of water back into the atmosphere.  This reduces the rain further west and temperatures continue to rise.  The end result is the loss of huge amounts, perhaps 185 gigatons, of CO2 to the atmosphere.
  3. Methane release from the sea floor  Clathrates, (Latin for "caged"), are ice crystals that trap molecules of methane inside them.  When brought up from the cold and pressure of the sea floor they pop and crackle and burn if ignited.  These deposits contain between 13,100 and 55,020 trillion cubic yards of methane.  There is an estimated 482 trillion cubic yards of recoverable natural gas in the world.  A relatively small scale (North Sea) event release 55 mya killed most of the life in the seas.  It is becoming probable that the Permian-Triassic extinction event was precipitated by massive volcanic eruptions in Siberia that emitted billions of tons of CO2 causing the temperature to rise about 11° F.  The oxygen concentration in the atmosphere 280 mya was 21%, the same as today, by 260 mya it was 15%, and by the Permian-Triassic extinction event it was only 10%.  Could this have been caused by the release of methane which then combined with oxygen removing it from the air?  This extinction event killed about 90% of the species on earth at the time, including many mammalian species which could have competed with the dinosaurs.
Flannery thinks that the probability of any of these events occurring before 2100 is quite small.  The most likely, the collapse of the Gulf Stream is self limiting as it is a negative feedback event that causes major cooling.

C22  Civilization: Out With a Whimper?  Civilization is based on two principles, ability to grow enough food to produce a surplus for those not growing food and our ability to live in groups big enough to support specialized institutions, government, military, factories, museums, education, etc.  How will we survive a resource shortage?

C23  A Close-Run Thing
 A brief summary of the hole in the ozone layer and how the production of CFC's have been drastically reduced.  1 example:  Nortel used CFC's in cleaning.  They were required to spend $1 million to change their process.  Once redesigned the cleaning systems saved $4 million in waste disposal and CFC purchases.  Also the head start the US companies had gave them a competitive advantage over companies in other countries.

C24  The Road to Kyoto  Energy production effects many more people than CFC's did, therefore the political and economic problems are greater.  As of Feb 16, 2005 only the USA, Australia, Monaco, and Liechtenstein have failed to sign the Kyoto Protocol.  He devotes a large portion of the chapter to Australian politics, most Americans are aware of some of the American politics.

C25  Cost, Cost, Cost
 Both the US and Australia were born on the frontier and have deep beliefs about endless growth and expansion, any reduction is viewed by most politicians as political suicide.  Our western Europe based culture is based on fear of cold, how could warm be bad?

C26  People in Greenhouses Shouldn't Tell Lies
 Both the US and Australia have many politicians with deep ties to the oil and coal industry.  They tend to act unthinkingly and violently to any suggestion that there may be problems with their source of income.  Even as their shrill shouts resonate through the rafters there is a steady undercurrent of reason spreading throughout the world.  Unfortunately it doesn't as yet have the financing to fully present its case.

C27  Engineering Solutions?
 There is no global body set up to evaluate any engineering solutions.  Most environmental groups reject any such solutions because of this.  Proposed solutions:  Iron powder dumped in oceans to fertilize plankton.  1.3 tons of iron can possibly sequester 900 tons of CO2, we are releasing 13 gigatons of CO2 yearly.  Inject liquid CO2 into ocean depths.  Kills many types of fish and shellfish.  Pump CO2 underground.  CO2 displaces oxygen so any leaks would be deadly.  To solve the problem we would have to pump 12 cubic miles of CO2 into the earth every day for 100 to 200 years.  Simpler solutions are to sequester CO2 as wood and other agricultural products or to not produce it in the first place.

C28  Last Steps on the Stairway to Heaven?  The steps in producing lower density of carbon in fuels are coal, oil, natural gas, and hydrogen.  We are gradually taking these steps and getting better.  Hydrogen is a wonderful fuel but there are a lot of engineering problems.  Most fuel cells are relatively inefficient, about the same as gasoline engines.  Hydrogen is very bulky, it evaporates readily (about 4% per day),  any generation using fossil fuels produces more CO2 than just using the oil as fuel, storing it (say in a vehicle) would mean changing many building codes.

C29  Bright as Sunlight, Light as Wind
 Two researchers have recently investigated 15 different basic types of technologies to solve the CO2 problem.  Flannery's suggestion is to use whatever technology would seem to work in the local area.  The ones that would seem to hold the most promise are: Wind, the current best bet.  The technology is quite advanced and the cost and efficiency are closing in on coal, oil, and gas.  Solar hot water, solar thermal, and photovoltaic cells.  Ideal for individuals, they work well in conjunction with wind.

C30  Nuclear Lazarus?  Nuclear power has gotten a bad rap because of poorly designed reactors and their accidents.  It will become more important as many countries without ready access to fossil fuels are building reactors.  Geothermal energy has been very underutilized.  Areas with volcanic activity are very difficult to use technologically.  Recently radioactively heated granite deposits have been investigated and look very promising.

C31  Of Hybrids, Minicats, and Contrails
 Alcohol based fuels are attractive but they would require a huge investment in farm land to make a substantial contribution to the energy supply, probably adding another 20% to the current farm land requirements when we are having trouble feeding the existing humans.  Hybrid vehicles like the Toyota Prius reduce gas consumption and cuts CO2 production by about  70% which is very significant.  A small company in Luxembourg is building a vehicle using compressed gas.  It looks very promising.  There would seem to be very options other than fossil fuels for airplanes.  They are being made more fuel efficient and more efficiencies are possible with proper flight rules.  They have the advantage of contributing to global dimming.

C32  The Last Act of God?  "An Act of God was defined as something which no reasonable man could have expected."  A. P. Gilbert.  As our knowledge improves it will become very difficult to hide behind the statement that no one could have expected a result.  Lawsuits charging environmental damage will become winnable.  The inhabitants of places in the far north and of low lying islands have already filed lawsuits charging environmental damage from global warming.

C33  2084:  The Carbon Dictatorship?  What will happen?  Flannery sees 3 possible alternatives, 1-our response is too slow and uncoordinated.  Climate shifts destroy our support system.  Very severe dark ages occur and we may well not survive.  2-we act quickly and avoid climate collapse, in about 150 years the earth (Gaia) will stabilize.  3-We will stabilize but not before serious damage has occurred.  It will be touch and go for perhaps centuries.

C34  Time's Up
 If we act promptly we can get through this with minimal damage, perhaps only loosing only 10% of the species at risk.  Leaders, political, economic, and academic must act now.

C35  Over to You  It is possible for most people to achieve the 70% reduction in CO2 emissions.  Some of the techniques are: conservation, switch to green power consumption, install some type of solar water heating, install solar panels, make your next vehicle a hybrid fuel variety, convince those in your business to conduct an energy audit and reduce their expenditures.

Postscript  In a 2005 article in Science, James Hansen and his colleagues reported that currently each square yard of the earths surface is absorbing .85 watts more than it radiates into space.  Very small compared to the 282 watts per square yard receives, about the same as 2 or 3 miniature Christmas lights, but the earth has a lot of square yards and it accumulates over many, many years.

Afterword  After he finished the book, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita happened.  The Gulf of Mexico was very warm, surface temperatures of 87°F, so the storms grew very rapidly.  Hurricanes will occur but very warm surface temperatures boost them to Category 5 strength.  The afterword is filled with facts and figures about hurricanes.  To pick one, Dr. Peter Webster of Georgia Tech discovered that the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes has doubled since 1974.  He included several additional tables of information, extensive notes and references, and an index.

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